An August 2016 Bloomberg poll listed the top reason given by likely voters for disliking then-presidential candidate Donald Trump: He “mocked” a disabled reporter.
About the poll, NBC News reported, “Democrats have made sure the public has seen and heard about Trump’s extended riff over and over again. It has been played in ads created by the Clinton campaign, including a highly circulated one involving children silently watching, and by groups working on Clinton’s behalf. Bill Clinton even said in his convention speech that his wife ‘never made fun of people with disabilities. She tried to empower them based on their ability.'”
One slight problem: Trump did not mock a disabled reporter. Or, stated more accurately, Trump did not mock the reporter for his disability. Here’s what happened.
In 2015, Trump claimed that on the day of the 9/11 terror attacks, “thousands and thousands of people were cheering” in Jersey City, New Jersey, as the Twin Towers fell. To back up his claim, Trump pointed to an article co-written by then-Washington Post reporter Serge Kovaleski. The article said, “Law enforcement authorities detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops while they watched the devastation.”
When asked about Trump’s statement, Kovaleski said, “I certainly do not remember anyone saying that thousands or even hundreds of people were celebrating. That was not the case, as best as I can remember.”
In response, Trump ridiculed what he considered the reporter’s retreat from his 9/11 article. At a rally, Trump waved his hands erratically and said, “You’ve got to see this guy. ‘Uh, I don’t know what I said. Uh, I don’t remember.’ He’s going like, ‘I don’t remember. Maybe that’s what I said.'”
I had a close friend of over 40 years. His beloved son was born with special needs. I supported Trump in 2016 and campaigned with and for him. Because of Trump’s alleged ridicule of the reporter, my friend ended our friendship, despite my best effort to convince him that he was wrong.
First, Kovaleski does not flail his arms as Trump did when he made fun of him. Kovaleski has a condition called arthrogryposis, described by Johns Hopkins Medicine as a “variety of conditions involving multiple joint contractures (or stiffness).” He does not gyrate as Trump did when he “mocked” the reporter’s condition. Kovaleski is a calm and steady speaker.
Second, Trump has for years used the same mocking gesture to ridicule others, including an able-bodied general, as seen in this video.
In 2017, Investor’s Business Daily published a commentary with the headline “Fake News: Trump Did Not Mock Disabled Reporter and Other Lies from the Left.” It said, “The truth is, Trump has often used those same convulsive gestures to mimic the mannerisms of people, including himself, who are rattled and exasperated. Why couldn’t the mainstream media look this up? … Trump has a history of flailing his arms to make a point. It isn’t something he reserved for Kovaleski.”
“Why have we seen no images of Kovaleski moving the way Trump is moving? In every video and photograph of Kovaleski we’ve seen, he is calmly standing still with his right arm held firm against his chest. He’s not waving his arms uncontrollably.”
As for my former friend, he is brilliant; he received a perfect score on his SAT and nearly that high a score on his LSAT. But after I sent him a lengthy letter defending Trump, he remained angry and unconvinced.
It occurred to me that once people — no matter how bright — decide they hate Trump, they do not wish to un-hate him.
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